Once upon a time a brand new housing estate was built. It was huge and was for the workers in the large local factories such as Perkins Engines.
The houses were solid and well-built, had large gardens and were far superior to what people had been used to. These houses were situated on wide avenues, many of which were named after trees - e.g. Sycamore, Rowan, Chestnut, Maple (because people recognised that trees played an important part in our environment).
A road called Central Avenue ran through the middle of the estate and, in the centre of Central Avenue, was a row of shops.
In the middle of these shops was the largest unit - a library. Planners, architects, local authority officers and politicians all realised that a library containing books, magazines, newspapers was vital for people who might not themselves have access to such things.
That was in the 1940s/50s and the estate was called Dogsthorpe and the library called Dogsthorpe Library.
In 2014, a week or so ago, I received a communication from Peterborough City Council asking me what I thought about Dogsthorpe Library. Why? Because they’re planning to close it, that’s why.
And there will be outrage from people, quite rightly complaining about the reduction in services. But hang on a minute - let’s be brutally realistic. As a child and young man I used to use Dogsthorpe Library a couple of times a week. Now I hardly frequent it at all - I have the Internet for information and can buy books cheaply online as well as download music.
My need for the library has diminished. The world has changed.
Peterborough people will rightly lambast the council for making these cuts. But the council itself is being forced to find yet another £20 million of savings, a colossal amount. No elected local representative in their right mind would willingly impose cuts such as these. Our public services are being attacked and destroyed by a cultural terrorism caused by the policies of national government, a Tory/Liberal government hammering a Tory local authority. Sadly this is the world in which we now live.
So, next time you’re walking, cycling or driving past Dogsthorpe Library, look above the door and you will see the words ‘Public Library’ on either side of the Peterborough Cross Keys coat of arms set in stone.
They may not be there for very much longer. And also be prepared for your grandchildren to one day ask you, “Grandad, what’s a library?”